"Colorful Underwater Landscape of a Coral Reef" by Jim E Maragos, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Public Domain

Researchers May Have Solved Darwin’s Paradox of How Reefs Are So Productive

May 24, 2019

By Brian Kahn

Cryptobenthic fish may sound weird, but they’re not so different from you and me. They’re vertebrates just like us, though their hearts, bones, and brains are quite tiny. But unlike us, they do two things extremely well.

“They’re the masters of premature death,” Simon Brandl, a postdoctoral researcher at Simon Fraser University, told Earther. “And that is their big contribution to coral reefs.”

Indeed, in research published on Thursday in Science, Brandl and his colleagues show that without these tiny, death-loving fish, reefs would be in big trouble. And in doing so, they’ve helped answer a 200-years-old puzzle called Darwin’s Paradox, which asks how reefs exist in otherwise desert-like parts of the ocean.

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